On Canada, Merck, newsbunnies, Bosnia, teen fashion, etc.

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Dec 02, 2004 12:00 AM

Iran may be caving on enriched uranium, and unemployed former Communist apparatchiks are up to their old tricks in Ukraine. Pitcairn Island, of Bounty and Fletcher Christian fame, now turns out to have been not a South Seas paradise but a cesspool of sexual abuse for many of its 214 years. And U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan insists he won't resign his post despite son Kojo evidently having taken buckets of money under the table in connection with the U.N.-run oil-for-food program in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Comments on other news items of note. . .

President Bush has ventured to Canada to ease strained relations - but his task is tough. In 1981, just 8 percent of Canadians had an unfavorable view of the U.S.; now 45 percent do. The place is an expanding bastion of political correctness. Ministers of certain churches (e.g., the United Church of Canada, the country's largest Protestant body) are seeking to unionize to win higher wages and secure protection from parishioner abuse.

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And there are reports - blasphemous? - that during the past month Canadian border guards have been swamped by a flood of fleeing American animal-rights activists and sociology profs fearing Bush's re-election will lead in the States to compelled hunting, praying and agreement with Bill O'Reilly - not to mention federal decrees against Volvos, latte and free-range chicken.

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The world still boasts countless countries with sense. In the weeks before the U.S. elections, Australia re-elected its pro-American prime minister. What's more, Hamid Karzai, winner of Afghanistan's first presidential election at about the same time, speaks of the joys of American-wrought democracy.

He says: "We are not like America or like France or other European countries, which have had this freedom and right of franchise for centuries. We are not like Indians, who have done this for 50 years. We are just emerging from the bed of thorns, misery, poverty, homelessness and destruction and interference. We have succeeded in just three years. There are countries which could not do this in years. . . . We should not weaken this foundation but make it even stronger."

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What is the rationale for holding elections as soon as possible in countries hostile to the U.S., but for delaying them until "the proper time" in pro-American countries such as Iraq?

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CNN has named its eighth boss since Fox News hit the cable scene in the late 1990s. In the past three decades the percentage of households tuning into evening network news shows has plunged by about half. In their thrashings, CBS has not yet apologized to President Bush for Dan Rather, and ABC has decided to drop the Miss America Pageant - carried by NBC or ABC since 1954 - presumably because viewers today are uninterested in American feminine beauty. Could Fox News be romping well ahead of CNN because the former is not liberal, or because Fox has the best-looking newsbunnies on cable?

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Long one of the nation's most respected companies, pharmaceutical giant Merck may be on its way to oblivion following September disclosures that its arthritis drug Vioxx can cause heart attacks. Yet Merck may be but the latest company to demonstrate corporate arrogance with last-minute golden parachutes that do nothing quite so much as reward failure and/or incompetence. Ten days ago, with the stock price plunging, Merck's directors adopted a plan that (according to The New York Times) could "give its 230 most senior managers the opportunity for a one-time payment of up to three years of salary and bonus if another company bought Merck - or merely bought more than 20 percent of its shares. Any executive who was fired or resigned for good cause would receive the payment."

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair is speeding a plan for national identity cards. Civil libertarians are properly concerned. Yet in this jihadist hour, with terrorists exploiting immigration laws to destroy free societies, ID cards may be one of the most useful ways to proceed toward national security - albeit with deliberate care.

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In case you missed it, this month the U.S. will officially end its nine-year peacekeeping mission in Bosnia - a military enterprise that stabilized a region wracked by 200,000 deaths (remember ethnic cleansing?) and 1.8 million refugees. The principal perpetrators were Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his lovely wife Mira, a.k.a. "The Red Witch" for her adamant Communism.

 And this closing quote, by Washington Post staff writer Ylan Q. Mui - on the soaring importance of teen fashion, as explained by Suitland High School (Maryland) high-school clotheshorse Brandon Singleton: (He) wears Armani sunglasses inside his mother's modest town home . . . as he rattles off a list of his favorite designer brands: Dolce & Gabbana, Coach, and "a little Burberry here and there." His first luxury purchase was a pair of shiny black Gucci pants that he bought freshman year for $450 - all the money he had received for his 14th birthday. "I'm trying to do it big," he explained. . . . "People are always telling me that I walk through the hallways like it's a fashion show," Brandon said. "I tell them: 'Boo, it's my fashion show. It's my runway.'"